Aussie gun blows lead, loses $3.6 million

U.S. Women's Open Presented by Ally - Final Round
Minjee Lee blew her lead at the US Open Patrick Smith/Getty Images/AFP

Minjee Lee conceded she “blew up” after losing a three-shot lead amid a back nine catastrophe which cost her a shot at a second US Open and the biggest prize purse in the tournament’s history.

Having started the day in a three-way share of the lead, the world No.9 opened with a birdie and, despite two bogeys to follow, was still three shots clear after eight holes as her rivals stumbled at the Lancaster County Club in Pennsylvania and the “beast” lived up to its moniker for most players.

But from there it all went horribly wrong for the 2022 champion, dropping four shots in three holes, including a three-putt bogey on the 10th which dropped her into a tie with Japan’s Yuka Saso who then took the lead on the 13th hole and went on to secure a second US Open with a three-shot win, one of just two players to finish under par.

At the same time Saso went ahead, Lee went into the water off the tee on the par three 12, the hole where world No.1 Nelly Korda made a 10 in the opening round.

The Australian walked off with a double-bogey and found herself three shots behind Saso, with only six holes to play, and continued to go backwards.

Lee made another double-bogey on the 14th hole, followed it with a bogey on the 15th to go from the top of the leaderboard to just inside the top 10.

Her nightmare finished with an eight- over 78, seve-shots behind Saso, who collected the 3.6 million first prize. Lee finished in a tie for ninth, her final round 12 shots worse than her third round 66.

“I mean, I started good. Felt like I hit it pretty good; just missed a couple putts for birdie early and then I kind of blew up from there,” she said after her horror final round.

“I think I did a lot of good things but obviously didn’t play very well today and I’m disappointed that I didn’t do better. Yeah, I feel like -- obviously I’m going to acknowledge my disappointment and then come back stronger, take the positives out of the week, you know.

“It’s a lot of pressure on the last day, so wasn’t my best performance but I’m sure there will be many better performances ahead.”

The 27-year-old Australian was looking to go past two-time major winner Greg Norman and join Karrie Webb (seven), Jan Stephenson (three) and Peter Thomson (five) as only Australians to win more than two golf majors.

Before the final round Lee, who cruised to her first US Open win in 2022, said she would “definitely embrace” the pressure of leading in to the final day.

U.S. Women's Open Presented by Ally - Final Round
Minjee Lee floundered in the final round of the US Open. Pennsylvania. Patrick Smith/Getty Images/AFP

But it was a rare position for the 27-year-old to be in so far this season, having recorded a best finish of fourth in her eight events to start 2024.

Lee had also missed consecutive cuts, and three through six events so far in 2024. She had even fallen outside the top 10 for a week and having struggled for much of the year and despite being a two-time major winner, couldn’t find her best when it mattered.

She needed the round her good friend and world No.5 Hannah Green fired in the final round. Green, who was 14-shots behind Lee at the start of the day, closed with a four-under 66, the equal best round of the entire week, to finish in a tie for 16th.

“I learned Mel Reid’s saying, beauty and the beast. It definitely feels that way,” she said.

“Today it was a beauty because I obviously had a good round, but it felt like on the first round it played very different today. It’s very easy to make bogeys and there are definitely a lot of birdie opportunities, but you still have to give yourself those opportunities.”

Sarah Kemp was the nest best of the Australians finishing in a tie for 29th, while Gabi Ruffels was tied for 51st.

Both Lee and Green will represent Australia at the Paris Olympics.